Wednesday, August 18, 2010

069. Pakistan: Christians' plight critical

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 069 | Wed 18 Aug 2010

PAKISTAN: CHRISTIANS' PLIGHT CRITICAL (an extended RLPB)


RLPB 066 (July Update) noted two appalling attacks against Pakistani Christians: that of Christian trainee nurse Magdalene Ashraf, who had been beaten, tortured, gang-raped and thrown from a hospital window; and the case of brothers Rev Rashid Emmanuel (32) and Sajid Emmanuel (30) who had been arrested on a false blasphemy charge, imprisoned, tortured, and then shot dead outside the Faisalabad courthouse. Islamic intolerance is escalating unchecked across Pakistan. Original Muslim teachings emanating from mosques and madrassas cultivate hatred which is then fuelled by the impunity the perpetrators enjoy. As chaos and lawlessness escalate, the situation for Christians deteriorates.

KHYBER PAKHTOONKHWA (formerly North West Frontier Province {NWFP}). On 14 June Samuel John, a Christian psychology professor at the University of Peshawar, was savagely beaten by students outside his home for refusing to convert to Islam. When his wife rushed to his aid she too was beaten. Both required hospitalisation, with the professor in a critical condition. The police refuse to register a First Information Report (FIR) and John continues to be threatened with death unless he converts to Islam or leaves the University.

PUNJAB PROVINCE. Sunil Masih, Shazia Masih and Nasir Naeem, three Christian 8th grade students in Danna village, southern Punjab, have long faced pressure from teachers to convert to Islam. On 16 June, after their parents complained, the principal backed his staff and told the parents that if the students would not convert to Islam then they would have to leave the school. When the police refused to help, the three Christian families fled the area. On 19 June Rehmat Masih (85) of Faisalabad district was arrested and jailed after a hard-line Muslim, Muhammad Sajjid Hameed, filed a false blasphemy charge against him. Hameed and Masih had both made application for the same parcel of land.

Jamshed Masih, a policeman and a Christian, was recently transferred to the predominantly Muslim Mustafa Colony in Jhelum, south of Islamabad. However, local Muslims were not willing to have the Christian family living amongst them. On 21 June a mob led by local Muslim religious leader Maulana Mahfooz Khan descended on the family's home after Masih had left for work. Sensing trouble Masih's wife, Razia, had already phoned her husband and asked him to come home urgently. Khan accused the eldest son (11) of blasphemy, drawing a crowd. As Razia pleaded for mercy someone in the crowd hit her on the head with a hard object, causing her to bleed and her children to cry. The agitated crowd began baying for blood, and by the time Jamshed Masih got home, his wife and four children lay murdered. Masih tried to file a complaint, but the Station House Officer refused to register a FIR.

In Farooqabad in eastern Punjab, three Muslim co-workers of a Christian man allegedly raped his 16-year-old daughter at gunpoint on the night of 21 July. On 29 July, after Masih had complained to police, two other Muslims who work for his employer kidnapped him and took him to the employer's farmhouse. There they reportedly shackled and tortured Masih, leaving him in a critical condition.

In Rawalpindi district students from the local Jamia Islamia Madrassa (Qur'anic school) have been harassing Christians in the villages around Gujar Khan. According to a local pastor they routinely beat Christian children and throw stones at the church. 'They openly announce that "the Christians are our enemies, we should not talk to them, eat with them or do business with them".' (The Qur'an repeatedly commands Muslims to maintain enmity towards and separation from Christians.) On 22 July a 12-year-old girl from a local Christian family was gang-raped by seven or eight madrassa students. A teacher who witnessed the incident overheard one of the 16-strong student mob saying, 'We will teach these Christians a lesson they will never forget.' When the girl's distraught parents went to the police station to file a complaint, the officer in charge refused to register it, yielding to local Muslim pressure. According to the Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), 'Such vicious incidents are not being stopped by the government, and day by day the rate of rapes of Christian girls is escalating instead of plunging.' This would be expected when rape is rewarded with impunity.

SINDH PROVINCE. On 15 July Pastor Aaron John, Rohail Bhatti, Salman John, Abid Gill and Shamin Mall were shot dead and six others were wounded when a dozen masked men opened fire on them as they left their church property in Sukkur, Sindh Province. The church members had been meeting to discuss security in the light of recent threatening letters the church had received. Students from a local madrassa have been threatening the church since 2008. After the shooting the police and ambulance took 45 minutes to arrive. A church member told Compass Direct News that, not only had the police refused to register an FIR in relation to the threats, they have also yielded to Muslim pressure and refused to register a FIR in relation to the killings.

FLOODS. Pakistan's devastating floods are the result of unprecedented monsoonal rains and bad governance, for Pakistan has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. Pakistan today has less than five percent forest cover. The floods have wiped out millions of homes and millions of acres of prime agricultural land. A humanitarian crisis of monumental proportions is unfolding. Further to this, Bishop Humphrey Peters of Peshawar warns that aid is unlikely to reach marginalised minority Christians. The people are angry, hungry and desperate. That combined with the government's virtual collapse in credibility, along with the Army's diversion into rescue and relief, provides the al-Qaeda-Taliban with a phenomenal window of opportunity.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:

* our sovereign God and compassionate Father will make provision for his desperately needy people: material provision in the midst of calamity; spiritual provision in the midst of persecution; and sanctuary in the midst of insecurity.

* Yahweh Sabaoth -- the 'Lord of Hosts' / the Commander of Heaven's forces -- will frustrate the ways of the wicked (Psalm 146), obstructing and confounding any al-Qaeda-Taliban attempt to exploit Pakistan's catastrophic flood for the advancement of their own evil agenda.

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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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PAKISTANI CHRISTIANS' PLIGHT CRITICAL

Islamic intolerance is mounting unchecked across Pakistan as the original Muslim teachings emanating from mosques and madrassas cultivate hatred. As chaos and lawlessness proliferate, the situation for Christians deteriorates. The frequency of Christian girls being raped is escalating, and Muslims increasingly reject having Christians live amongst them. Police are more frequently unwilling to register complaints against Muslims who assault, extort, rape, torture or murder Christians, so that the impunity fuels the persecution. The blasphemy law continues to be exploited for religious hatred and personal gain, and a false accusation of blasphemy is as good as a death sentence. Furthermore when catastrophe like the flood strikes, aid rarely reaches marginalised minority Christians. The Church in Pakistan greatly needs our prayers. (See Psalm 146.)